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NBA flopping update

The NBA says that the flopping rule is working. Then again, what would you expect the NBA to say?

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While watching the ABC broadcast of the Heat-Knicks game on Sunday, I was fascinated by the graphic that ABC showed concerning the progression of flopping since the institution of the NBA's new flopping review process. The graphic, which I'm reconstructing from memory and from other news reports, conveyed essentially this:

  • 2012 Playoffs -- 70 flops in 79 games
  • Nov 2012 -- 7 flops
  • Dec 2012 -- 7 flops
  • Jan 2013 -- 3 flops
  • Feb 2013 -- No flops

Stu Jackson of the NBA recently spoke to the media to promote these numbers, the message being -- the new rules are working, we are ridding the game of flopping. Yay NBA!

But does anyone other than me notice a basic disconnect in the information that ABC put on screen? There was no flopping rule during the 2012 playoffs, so to say that there were 70 flops during the 2012 playoffs begs a pretty significant question. How were there 70 flops? Who counted them? What was the definition? At the very least we need some sort of explanation at to what the 70 number represents. Presumably someone reviewed all of those 79 games and determined that there were 70 instances that WOULD have received a flop warning under the current system. But in looking for the origin of this data, I have not seen an explanation of the 2012 playoff flopping figure. The closest I've seen is from a USA Today story by Jeff Zillgut which states "during last season's playoffs ... there were more than 70 flops in 79 games - almost one a playoff game - Jackson said." (Emphasis added.) Jackson said. That's some good reporting, Zillgut. Obviously the NBA has a conflict of interest here, and it makes the rule look good for them to say that it has reduced flopping significantly. Just reporting what the league office tells you, the league office that determines these policies in the first place, is more than a little lazy.

I'm not saying that the policy isn't working. I am saying that it's incredibly self-serving for Stu Jackson to say it's working and incredibly bad reporting for it to wind up in a graphic on national TV without so much as a hint of explanation. I was actually moving through on fast forward on the DVR when that graphic caught my eye. I stopped, went back and stared at the screen for a bit. It made no sense to have the 2012 playoffs included, and yet neither Mike Breen nor Jeff Van Gundy offered one word of explanation.

One final aside on this topic at this time. Everyone knows how I feel about the narrative of flopping as opposed to the reality, especially where the Clippers are concerned. Kendrick Perkins' comments after Sunday's Clippers-Thunder game, trying to justify Serge Ibaka's low blow or else implying that Griffin was somehow faking being hit (it's really hard to know what Perk was saying, he's not the sharpest cheddar in the fromagerie) were an offshoot of that problem: "Everyone knows he's a flopper". So you get to sucker punch him? Really?

Here's another one. Take a look at the caption on the picture accompanying this story on the flopping rule change:

Clippers forward Blake Griffin appears to go down hard, much to the surprise of the Phoenix Suns' P.J. Tucker, who was called for the foul.

Now, we're looking at a STILL photo. There's no way of knowing what happened. None. But I do know this. P.J. Tucker has never, in his NBA career, been whistled for a foul against Blake Griffin. The editor who created the caption invented the backstory from whole cloth, because it fit his or her narrative.

I like the flopping rule. I suggested it many years before it was ever implemented. Anecdotally it may actually be working to eliminate some of the more egregious instances. And why wouldn't it? Players aren't dumb, they understand carrots and sticks, and until this season flopping was mostly met with a carrot and never with a stick. But I haven't seen any data that indicates it's working that goes beyond the anecdotal, and to accept some off hand comments from Stu Jackson as evidence is beyond naive.